Nissan Sees U.S. Leaf Sales Dip With Shift to Tennessee

Nissan Motor Co., the biggest seller of electric cars, said U.S. sales of Leaf hatchbacks will drop temporarily as the company shifts production for the region to its Tennessee plant.

Leaf deliveries averaged 1,500 units a month in 2012’s fourth quarter, according to an e-mailed statement. That was up from about 579 units a month through September. With vehicle and lithium-ion battery production just starting in Smyrna, Tennessee, it will take until March to boost supplies, Nissan said today.

Sales “grew significantly in the fourth quarter, which resulted in dealers starting January with an even more limited supply of the electric vehicles than we anticipated,” Brendan Jones, Nissan’s director of electric vehicle marketing and sales strategy, said in the statement. The company began 2013 with fewer than 900 2012 model Leafs, and expects to sell more than 80 percent of them this month, Jones said.

Japan’s second-largest carmaker sold 9,819 Leafs in the U.S. last year, less than half of Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn’s 20,000-unit goal. The Yokohama, Japan-based company expects higher sales of the car, powered solely by batteries, to grow because of lower prices and improved recharge time.

Previously all Leafs sold in the U.S. were imported from Japan. Nissan this month said the new 2013 S trim Leaf being built in Smyrna has a $28,800 base price, down from $35,200 for the previous entry-level model. The car averages 73 miles (117 kilometers) per charge and also qualifies for a $7,500 federal tax credit.

Nissan, with U.S. headquarters in Franklin, Tennessee, is to release January sales results on Feb. 1.

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